I am officially done with the Early Start Program- for those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s a program that begins a week before classes start. In the mornings there are French classes that you take based on your level, where you relearn some of the basics and more applicable phrases in French and in the afternoons there are activities that are VERY fun.
I personally enjoyed the classes immensely, mainly because the teaching techniques were so different than what I was used to- we played bingo to learn numbers, we listened to French music to practice listening comprehension and actually went to cafe and market to learn how to buy things! My professor, Estelle, was absolutely phenomenal and I’m sad to learn that she won’t be my teacher for the rest of the semester.
Also, the other students in my group became very close because we spent so much time together. Just in general though, because there were only 30 of us in the ESP, everyone became friends incredibly fast. Seeing the new students today was almost weird because our group had become so tight-knit. However, I am sure that soon enough all 160 of us will create a super-group of sorts and will make the following semester a memorable one.
Before I talk about the activities we did, let me talk about the structure of the day. The schedule was made in such a way that we were busy from 9 in the morning (yeah, I know, it’s terrible) to 6 in the evening. But, don’t let how hectic the schedule is deceive you; having such a long day was very helpful because
1) It kept you AWAKE. Yes, that’s right jet lag, ESP helped me defeat you!
2) You were always busy. There wasn’t a moment where you just stood in the middle of Aix and thought, what do I do now?
The activities were very fun. Let me tell you, if not for the program, I wouldn’t have tried some of these things. On the second day of ESP, Tuesday, we saw Sainte Victoire mountain, which was just stunning. I’m not going to lie, the view was breathtaking and I have already decided that one of these weekends I am going to go back and climb to the very top.
On Wednesday we went winetasting which was incredibly fun because wine. And feel free to call me a nerd, but I found the information about the process incredibly interesting.
Also, now I’m a wine snob.
I personally had the most fun on Thursday. We went to L’Atelier des Chefs and learned how to make a dessert. Note, that I am terrible at cooking. For no reason other than the fact that cooking has never interested me. But let me tell you, I don’t know whether it was the atmosphere or the people or the when-in-France attitude, but I had fun. Yes. That’s right. I enjoyed the cooking class. We made something like an apple crumble. The dessert was incredibly delicious, and now I am certain that I am on par with the likes of Gordon Ramsey when it comes to cooking.
We also visited the library La Mejane which was very beautiful (and I’m starting to realize that you’d be hard pressed to find anything here that isn’t beautiful) and the Marchutz School of Fine Arts (don’t even get me started- this place, although in an inconvenient location, is gorgeous. My only advice is to sign up for an art class before reaching because you will definitely want to take a class and it’s usually fills up quickly).
I have found that after a week I have only grown to love my host mom even more. She is literally adorable and a very good cook. She is patient when it comes to speaking to her in French. My entire living situation, including my housemate, is pretty good and it has diminished all worries I had about living with a host vs living alone in an apartment.
Before I end this blog post, I would like to say one thing: Ever since reaching here I have not walked less than 7000 steps per day. I find that walking everywhere is a very different way of life. I come from a town where the only way to reach places is by car, and its bizarre to think that I can just put on some shoes (side note, please remember to bring sneakers) and walk for 2 minutes and reach the center of town. When walking I tend to see things I normally wouldn’t like the man playing the accordion at the street corner, the beautiful street marchés and of course, the lovely dog poop on the street that I try to avoid stepping on.
On that note, I will leave you wonderful readers, but stay tuned for my other adventures like La Ciotat and my first week of classes!